Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Fourth Committee Item 49 (a): Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
New York, 1 November 2019
At a time when the disarmament agenda is facing tremendous challenges, a renewed commitment on the part of all to the peaceful uses of outer space is needed more than ever. The Holy See is well aware of the overlap of ensuring the sustainability and security of these peaceful uses, as reflected in the joint panel of this Committee with representatives of the First Committee.
The increasing reliance on outer space platforms in support of communications, navigation, position finding and the daily commerce of activities here on Earth points to the importance of our work to support the sustainability of those platforms. In this regard, a particularly important effort involves the prevention of space debris, caused by inadvertent or advertent collisions or other actions involving satellites or other space vehicles. Until space debris decays from orbit, or is intercepted and disposed of, it represents a major threat to other satellites.
Satellites play an important role in development, especially in places where it is most needed, such as remote rural areas that are difficult to reach and support by surface routes. They are essential for monitoring environmental disasters, such as hurricanes and climate patterns. The Holy See takes a special interest in such beneficial uses of satellites in providing aid and relief to the disadvantaged and to disaster victims.
In addition to the appeals for international cooperation made in past years in this Committee, my Delegation notes other important developments. For example, there are reports informing that States partners in the International Space Station are working to establish “international operational standards” for communications equipment, environmental control and life support, and rendezvous operations.
My Delegation encourages this positive development, which is more important than ever due, inter alia, to the increasing use of small spacecraft (smallsats), which has led to interest in agreeing on “rules of the road” to ensure that the possibility of collision with other satellites is minimized. The number of satellites orbiting in space is expected to increase exponentially in the next ten years. While outer space is vast, there is less room for preferred orbits. This is clearly an issue that requires close international cooperation in the interest of the entire international community. It makes much sense to maximize international cooperation in outer space, as it is on the Earth below.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.